Can you help us keep making a difference in 2017?

To make your tax-deductible donation to Kansas Interfaith Action, click here.

In Jewish tradition there's a midrash (a rabbinic explication of a Biblical story) that says that when the children of Israel were at the Sea, with the barrier in front of them and the raging army of Pharaoh coming up fast behind them, the people panicked (naturally) and even Moses didn't know what to do. A lone man, Nahshon, in a singular act of faith, walked out into the Sea – to his knees, to his waist, to his nose – before the Sea parted and the Israelites were able to make their way to freedom.  

When we began Kansas Interfaith Action at the start of this year we knew we were trying to fill an important role in Kansas public life: as the voice of faith- and conscience-based public policy advocacy in our state. We knew such a voice was desperately needed, given where the state was and how the voice of faith had been largely coopted by the political right. What we didn't know is what would happen next. But like Nahshon, despite the uncertainly, we walked in.

KIFA focuses on four main areas: Dr. King's “three evils” of racism, poverty and violence, and the fourth evil of climate disruption. In our first months, during the legislative session, we were active in each of these areas. We testified in favor of an open-hearted approach to refugee resettlement, and we and our allies were able to stop a bad bill. We organized to protect what's left of our tattered social safety net. And we advocated for a limit to the guns-anywhere approach currently in favor. In each case, we discovered strengths, and allies (often the same thing), we didn't know we had. And it's fair to say that even in its first months, KIFA became a key actor in developing (or mostly defending) values-based public policy in Kansas.

 In the summer and fall we took these discoveries “on the road,” holding Faith and Public Policy Forums in five cities throughout the state. These were intended to bring good, fact-based, nonpartisan information to all Kansans. What made them unique was the “faith” component – our framing that care for working people, responsible tax and budgeting policy, and concern for our effects on our planet are not simply matters of policy but are issues of faith – issues of supernal concern.

 We started speaking about “reclaiming the moral voice.” For too long Kansas politicians have used their personal religiosity as cover for mean-spirited public policy. For too long religious belief has been linked to intolerance, to avarice, to judgmentalism, to lack of compassion – ungodly values all. And what KIFA does, what KIFA has walked into the water to do, is to say to no to that, and to say yes to the time-honored spiritual values of loving one's neighbor, caring for the “least of these”, of the pursuit of peace instead of the reliance on the gun, of seeing each other as “created in the image of God.”

And we have found that that language, and our mission, resonates widely with people of conscience, no matter what their faith identity (or lack thereof). We have found that we are really making a start on “building a beloved community” in our state.

And that's where we find ourselves today. On the state level, with a more moderate legislature, we believe we will actually be able to begin to accomplish some things, as opposed to just trying to stop bad things from happening. We will pursue KanCare expansion, we will try to get “campus carry” repealed, we will join with our partners in trying to repair Kansas' tattered social safety net, we will join with others in advocating for a more climate-aware energy policy.

Of course, however (relatively) positive the election results were on the state level, the results on the national level have left us all very concerned. We fear that our neighbors will be vilified, registered, deported; we worry that a century's worth of progress on labor and environmental protection, on racial comity, on protecting the economically disadvantaged among us, will be swept away. We despair that people who see themselves as religious voted for this clenched and ungenerous vision.

So what do we do? What else can we do, but stand with our neighbors? What else can we do, but build coalitions of solidarity across denominations, across racial and economic divides? What else can we do, but do what we always do, what we walked into that water to do: to stand as the voice of faith and conscience in our state and our nation.

And to do that, we need your help. I always laugh a little when people ask how KIFA is funded. Beats the heck out of me! The answer, of course, is – it's funded by you. More than half of our budget comes from small and medium donors and from church baskets and congregational donations. In other words, we literally cannot do what we do without you!

Like Nahshon's walk into the water, KIFA itself is an act of faith. We have faith that we can have a positive effect in the life of our state and nation, and we have faith that the people who believe in what we do will support us financially.

This is the time of year when we ask for your help. Enclosed you will find an envelope for your year-end contribution. Please be as generous as you can. In fact, don't think of it as generosity – think of it as your financial commitment to strengthening the voice of faith-based activism in Kansas – a voice that is needed now more than ever.

Thanks very much for your support.

To make your tax-deductible donation to Kansas Interfaith Action, click here.

To become a sustaining donor by making a monthly contribution, click here

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  • Jan Swartzendruber
    commented 2016-12-23 10:52:20 -0600
    A beautifully written rationale for KFIA’s mission! Walking into the sea up to our noses is a great metaphor for the only option we have when under a moral imperative. Forward together!

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